Today on the grill: Albert Balsells, Barça Academy Soccer Camps Director
Albert Balsells is the Barça Academy Soccer Camps director for the USA.
Every summer, he organizes and coordinates 25 Soccer Camps that gather over 4.500 young players to learn the methods and values of the famous La Masia, where FC Barcelona legends like Messi and Xavi grew up.
This year, he had an impossible task: to organize the soccer camps events in the middle of a global pandemic.
Against all odds, Albert managed to minimize the impact of Covid-19 and adapt fast to ensure maximum safety for the players and their families, thus guaranteeing the kids would still be able to enjoy the best soccer summer experience in the country.
In 2020, Barça Academy USA held 14 Soccer Summer Camps for children between the ages of 6 and 16, registering a total of 1.500 participants and zero Coronavirus infections.
How did Mr. Balsells pull this off? That’s what we are going to find out:
How do you plan and organize the Barça Academy Soccer Camps?
At the start of each season we implement a timeline in which my team and I assign ourselves tasks to do throughout the year in order to have everything ready prior to camp commencing, although this year everything changed at the beginning of March due to COVID-19.
Due to COVID-19 how did the company switch the organizational structure and planning for the camps?
From March until the end of the camps we changed a lot of things and designed a contingency plan to know how to act considering different scenarios. The work done by the ISL staff was outstanding, considering the difficult situation we had to endure. Supporting each other was one of the most important things to keep working as a team.
What was the biggest challenge you faced this Summer to make the Camps a reality?
The biggest challenge for me and my team was that the situation was changing every day. Originally we had planned 25 camps, but ultimately ended up doing only 14 due to state restrictions & regulations. In addition, we had to monitor daily how the covid situation was evolving in each state and what were the updates from the government.
What were the main safety measures put in place to avoid infections?
We focused on safety measures on the field but also off the field, as in some camps we could have 300 people at one facility. We were very explicit in our communication with families and players to ensure that they maintain social distancing, wear masks, adhere to different drop off and pick up times and wash their hands periodically. We also cleaned the soccer material daily, distributed cleansing gel, etc.
Was it difficult to make the kids adapt to the new safety measures without taking the fun away?
A positive thing that we take from the camps is how people cooperate all the time, not just the players that were fantastic, but also our staff that was incredible at understanding the situation at all times and always being there to help each other. We couldn’t have done camps this summer without them and we are very grateful to all of them.
What expectations did the families have prior to camp starting?
As you can expect in this situation, families were worried about the safety of their children, that’s why one of the keys to success was communication with all of them. We designed safety protocols which we shared with all the families weeks before the events started.
What is your best advice to other professionals who might run specific types of events during a pandemic?
In a situation where every phone call can carry bad news because something happened, my advice would be to stay calm and act accordingly. At the end of the day as a person you can’t stop a pandemic by yourself, you can only imagine and plan different scenarios and be ready to act whenever you have to. Another very important thing is to support your team, at the end 5 brains think more than 1 and it’s important to trust them.
What are your expectations for Barça Academy Soccer Camps 2021?
We are very excited for 2021 and we hope we can run the camps without any restrictions. Besides the soccer experience, we want the players and families to have fun on and off the field. We are already thinking of big surprises for the players, if we can do the camps normally.